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FICTION

Overlapping Lives Through Letters: The Eighth Room by Kim Miwol,

  • onOctober 20, 2014
  • Vol.9 Autumn 2010
  • byYi Soo-hyung
The Eighth Room
2010
267pp.

The protagonist of The Eighth Room is Yeong-dae, a 25-year-old who has just returned from serving in the military, but most of the story contains recollections from a notebook that belonged to Kim Ji-yeong, a woman 10 years his senior. As the Korea of the 1990s and 2000s is politically and culturally different, Kim Ji-yeong and Yeong-dae have dissimilar college lives. However, the one important thing they have in common is that the Kim Ji-yeong in the notebook and Yeong-dae are both in their early 20s. Yeong-dae begins to peruse her journal as though reading this notebook he happened upon had always been his purpose in life.

Reading Kim Ji-yeong’s notebook and getting to know her better, Yeong-dae starts to believe that he is the only reader of the epic book starring Kim Ji-yeong as the protagonist, and that the notebook was written for him and only him. He is probably mistaken on this point, but there is no need to deny that the discovery of the journal was fortuitous, and that Kim Ji-yeong’s diary of her disorienting 20s is of great comfort to Yeong-dae as he navigates through his disorienting 20s.

Who is he? Yeong-dae is the sort of man who has never seen anything in the 25 years of his life. He has zero experience deciding something on his own accord, and putting it to action. But this one thing, he wants to see all the way through. He wants to return the notebook to Kim Ji-yeong, no matter what it takes.

Yeong-dae soon finds himself writing a response to the “letter” he received from Kim Ji-yeong. What he aims to accomplish is simply to return a notebook to its owner, but the act of going through all that trouble suggests a newfound conviction. Thus, we suspect that Yeong-dae’s story begins at the point where Kim Ji-yeong’s story ends. We may expect from Yeong-dae’s story a plot richer than it had been before.